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All-American Publications
All-AmericanComics logo.jpg
Status merged into National Periodical Publications, 1946
Founded 1938
Founder Max Gaines
Country of origin United States of America
Headquarters location 225 Lafayette Street
New York City
Key people Harry Donenfeld
Jack Liebowitz
Publication types Comic books
Fiction genres Superhero, Adventure, Funny animal, Humor

All-American Publications is one of three American comic book companies that combined to form the modern-day DC Comics, one of the world's two largest comics publishers. Superheroes created for All-American include the original Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman, all in the 1940s' Golden Age of comic books.

Publishing history

Max Gaines, future founder of EC Comics, formed All-American Publications in 1938 after successfully seeking funding from Harry Donenfeld,[1] CEO of both National Allied Publications (publisher of Action Comics and other titles) and sister company Detective Comics (publisher of that namesake comic book). As Gerard Jones writes of Donenfeld's investment:

All-American Comics #16 (July 1940), cover art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Harry had agreed on one condition: that [Gaines] take [Detective Comics partner] Jack Liebowitz on as his partner. ... Jack would be tempted to leave and form a competing company if there was nothing to hold him. And it may well have been a way for Harry to keep Gaines under control; since Jack was still drawing a salary and significant bonuses from Detective Comics and [self-distributorship] Independent News, he wouldn't let Gaines take off on his own or act against the interests of the other companies. ... Gaines became the principal and Jack Liebowitz the minority owner of All-American [Publications].[2]

While All-American, at 225 Lafayette Street in Manhattan, was physically separated from DC's office space uptown at 480 Lexington Avenue, it used the informal "DC" logo on most of its covers for distribution and marketing reasons. (The DC logo at the time was also used for National's unofficial branding, capitalizing on the success of Batman in Detective Comics.) In 1946, Gaines let Liebowitz buy him out, keeping only Picture Stories from the Bible as the foundation of his own new company, EC. "Liebowitz promptly orchestrated the merger of All-American and Detective Comics into National Comics.... Next he took charge of organizing National Comics, Independent News, and their affiliated firms into a single corporate entity, National Periodical Publications".[3]

Before that merger, Gaines had first rebranded All-American with its own logo, beginning with books cover-dated February 1945: All-Flash #17, Sensation Comics #38, Flash Comics #62, Green Lantern #14, Funny Stuff #3, and Mutt & Jeff [4] #16, and the following month's All-American Comics #64 and the hyphenless All Star Comics #24. When Liebowitz later merged his and Donenfeld's companies, the All-American titles first bore the DC logo once again (starting with December 1945's Sensation #48 and Flash Comics #68, continuing with All-American #70, All-Flash #21, Comic Cavalcade #13, Green Lantern #18, Funny Stuff #7, and Mutt & Jeff #20) before finally being fully absorbed by what was now National Periodical.

Creative legacy

All-American's first superheroes began their run in Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940), cover art by Sheldon Moldoff.

During All-American's existence, much cross-promotion took place between the two editorially independent companies, so much so that the first iteration of the Justice Society of America, in All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940/41), included in its roster the National characters Doctor Fate, Hour-Man (as it was then spelled), the Spectre, and the Sandman — creating comics' first intercompany crossover,[5] with characters interacting, although National's Sandman, Spectre and Hour-Man had previously appeared in solo adventures in All Star Comics #1 (Summer 1940).

With Gaines as editor, assisted by Sheldon Mayer, All-American Publications launched its flagship series All-American Comics with an April 1939 premiere. Like many comics of the time, All-American debuted with a mix of Newspaper comic strips, reprinted in color, and a smattering of original, comic-strip-like features. Among the strips were three huge hits of the era:  Mutt and Jeff, by Al Smith ghosting for strip creator Bud Fisher; Skippy, by Percy Crosby; and Toonerville Folks by Fontaine Fox. New content included Scribbly, a semiautobiographical Mayer feature about a boy cartoonist. All-American Comics lasted 102 issues through October 1948.

Also debuting that month was Movie Comics ("A full movie show for 10 cents"), featuring simple adaptations of movies using painted movie stills, as well as cartoonist Ed Wheelan's popular Minute Movies comics. The first of its six issues through Aug. 1939 adapted no fewer than five films: Son of Frankenstein, Gunga Din, The Great Man Votes, Fisherman's Wharf, and Scouts to the Rescue.

The next two comics were Mutt & Jeff, which ran 103 issues from Summer 1939 - June 1958; and the company's superhero debut, Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940), which introduced the super-speedster title character, created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert, as well as the Golden Age Hawkman and future Hawkgirl, by Fox and artist Dennis Neville, and Johnny Thunder, by scripter John Wentworth and artist Stan Aschmeier, among other features.

The Golden Age Green Lantern, from Batman writer Bill Finger and artist Martin Nodell, debuted in All-American Comics #16 (July 1940), followed by the original Atom, created by Bill O'Connor and penciler Ben Flinton, in All-American #19 (Nov. 1940). Wonder Woman was introduced in a nine-page story in All Star Comics #8 (Jan. 1942), the product of psychologist William Moulton Marston (under the pseudonym Charles Moulton) and Max Charles Gaines, and drawn by artist Harry G. Peter.

All-American Comics #1 (April 1939), launches All-American Publications. Skippy is on the Statue of Liberty's torch; Mutt and Jeff are pictured above her crown. Scribbly is at right above the text box, and two of the Toonerville Folks above him to the right. Cover art by Sheldon Mayer.

All-American characters

P literature.svg.png This literature-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Premiere issue of All Star Comics (Summer 1940), the anthology that would introduce the Justice Society of America two issues later. Note the National / DC characters the Sandman, the Spectre and Hour-Man.

Superhero/masked crimefighter


  • The Black Pirate
  • Gunner Godbee
  • Red, White and Blue (Red Dugan, Whitey Smith, Blooey Blue)

Funny-animal/other humor

  • Bulldog Drumhead
  • The Red Tornado
  • Scribbly


  1. Jones, Gerard, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book (Basic Books, 2004) trade paperback ISBN 978-0-465-03656-1, p. 147
  2. Jones, p. 164
  3. Jones, p. 223
  4. The comic book, unlike the comic strip, spelled its title with an ampersand.
  5. National's top stars, Batman and Superman, would first cross over as "honorary" Justice Society members in All Star Comics #7 (Dec. 1941), making cameo appearances in the three-page introduction and four-page conclusion of the story "$1,000,000 for War Orphans".